Train for Adventure

article028With so many different disciplines and only so much time, training for an adventure race is no easy task. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme because how much and how hard you train depends on the type and distance of the events in which you’d like to compete, your familiarity with each discipline, your fitness level and your goals and aspirations.

Many people enter the realm of adventure racing with their hearts set on spending multiple non-stop days immersed in the outdoors, crawling through jungles, trekking across deserts and paddling the length of Nile. For others, a three-hour event is an adequate dose of adventure.

Develop the disciplines   You really do need to know your stuff for each relevant discipline, especially if you plan to enter multi-day events. Mountain biking, running and paddling are the primary disciplines and you need to be comfortable and competent in all three.

Run/walk   In essence, running and trekking is the definitive training base for adventure racing. This is where battles are won. As a weight-bearing activity its benefits main benefits are cardio-respiratory fitness and foot conditioning. Just remember to carry a loaded backpack on training sessions to prepare your knees, ankles and back for the extra weight and resulting biomechanical changes. As a guide, run 3-5 times a week for no more than 6-10km per session. Remember to include regular hill and intervals sessions with a long run or hike every other weekend. And walk around barefoot at home – it strengthens and toughens your feet.

Mountain Biking   It’s inconvenient for most people to go mountain biking during the week. It is definitely ok to substitute with two road or indoor cycling sessions during the week, leaving mountain biking until the weekend. The primary benefits of actually being on your bike are confidence, stability and skill advancements.

Paddle   Inlanders paddle loops around local dams. Coastal-types play on the sea. Whatever your most accessible water source, get on it. Paddling is paddling no matter what the species (flat water, river, sea) yet fine skills acquired will be specific to the type. When you’re preparing for an event, pay attention to the specified paddling discipline and make certain that you’re competent in the required craft. If you can get out onto the water once or twice a week, do it.

Secondary Disciplines   These include rope skills, kloofing and even inline skating, ice climbing, push biking, snow-skiing. The options are endless. If they’re included in the race practise, practise and practise some more until you are competent.

Mental Strength   It’s often said that getting through an expedition race is 30% physical and 70% (or more) cerebral. Mental prowess is related to success, which is linked to training and preparation. Your mental medicine cabinet should contain:

  • confidence in your ability to do the distance
  • proficiency in the disciplines
  • adaptability to the ever-changing conditions in the race environment
  • positive thought even in stressful situations
  • a realistic expectation of yourself, your team-mates and each raceDo   Any training is money in the bank. I could go on and on about frequency, intensity, duration and maximum heart rate, yet it all comes down to you being able to do what you can, when you can. I’m confident that with each race you’ll want to improve so you will naturally train a little harder. If your mountain biking is holding back your team, you’ll work to improve it. And as you get fitter, you’ll spend more of your free time training. That’s just how it works. Easy hey?
  • Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Runner’s World SA, Feb 2006